California Sen. Leland Yee Pleads Not Guilty To Racketeering, Bribery Charges
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A California state senator previously charged with bribery pleaded not guilty Thursday to a new count of racketeering and to previously filed charges of accepting and soliciting bribes in exchange for exerting his influence in Sacramento.
The revised indictment unsealed last week also alleges that state Sen. Leland Yee, a San Francisco Democrat, sought money in exchange for helping pass legislation making it harder for professional football players to obtain workers compensation in California.
Authorities allege that an undercover FBI agent met with Yee and political adviser Keith Jackson at a restaurant on May 17, 2013, and talked about pending legislation that would limit the ability of out-of-state players to file claims in the state.
Yee was a member of a Senate committee considering the bill and told the agent he controlled two votes.
The agent boasted of his connection to an unidentified NFL owner. Yee then encouraged the agent to tell “owner of NFL team A” of his influence with the bill and to have the owner contact the senator “with an offer to help Yee,” according to the indictment.
When the undercover agent asked how much the vote would cost, Yee responded “‘oh no … we gotta drag it out, man. We gotta juice this thing,’” the document states.
Yee and Jackson then discussed approaching NFL players and other owners, according to the indictment.
A month later, the undercover agent told Jackson the NFL owner would pay $60,000, which Yee approved during a phone conversation with Jackson, according to the indictment that says the money was never delivered.
Yee voted for the bill in committee but abstained when the full Senate passed it late last year.
Jackson has pleaded not guilty to racketeering and related charges.
The new racketeering charge against Yee accuses him of orchestrating a wide range of criminal activity.
Yee previously pleaded not guilty to bribery charges and an allegation that he agreed to arrange a gun sale between an undercover FBI agent posing as a business man and international arms dealer in exchange for campaign contributions.
The new indictment also accuses Yee of taking bribes in exchange for votes in favor of several bills, including one on medical marijuana and another to extend the life of the California State Athletic Commission.
Also charged with racketeering was Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. The grand jury said the Ghee Kung Tong community association headed by Chow was a racketeering enterprise.
Chow pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to racketeering, money laundering and other charges.
Yee, Chow and Jackson could each face 20 years in prison if convicted.
The state Senate previously suspended Yee with pay.
Several related media outlets filed a lawsuit Thursday in Sacramento against the state Senate seeking the appointment books and calendars of Yee and state Sen. Ron Calderon, who was suspended from the chamber due to an unrelated corruption case.
The California Senate and its rules committee previously denied requests made by the Bay Area Newspaper Group, Los Angeles Newspaper Group and San Jose Mercury News to release the documents.
Senate lawyers claim the records are part of the deliberative process of lawmakers and are confidential.
The media outlets argue that the documents are no longer shielded from disclosure now that both senators have been suspended and charged.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.